Australian Rules Football (AFL) is known for its high level of physical body contact. These high impact collisions can occur from any direction. Players typically wear no protective padding of any kind except for a mouth guard. As such, impact injury rates tend to be high.
Soft tissue injuries are the most frequent, including injuries to the hamstring, quadriceps and calf muscles.
Full contact play with the potential to be tackled or bumped from any angle means that the risk of a knee being twisted or caught on a dangerous angle is high. Injuries to the knee, ankle and shoulder joints are common.
Hamstring strain is the most common AFL player injury.
AFL Injury Statistics
The following injury statistics have been drawn from the AFL 2015 season injury report:
- During the 2015 AFL season, there was an average of 37.7 new injuries per team causing 156.2 home & away and finals games to be missed.
- Hamstring injuries continue to be the number one injury concern (with an average of 5.2 new injuries causing 19.1 games missed per team). The overall incidence and prevalence of hamstring injuries was about average against historical data. Recurrence rates however remain relatively low (16%), reflecting improved understanding (particularly of intra-muscular tendon injuries) and/or more conservativemanagement.
- Calf strains (with an average of 2.9 new injuries causing 5.9 games missed per team) continue to track above the historical average, although injury rates and severity remain below the high observed in season 2013 (3.7 new injuries causing 10.6 games missed per club). This is likely to represent improved conditioning strategies and/or management.
- Groin injuries, which were once the third most common injury and cause of games missed in the AFL, remain low (with an average of 2.2 new cases of “groin strain or osteitis pubis” causing 7.1 games missed per team). This reflects improved prevention and management of groin injuries in the AFL.
- ACL injury rates were on par with historical averages (with an average of 0.7 injuries causing 16.7 games missed per team).
- Rates of leg and foot stress fractures returned to levels observed in the past after an increase in recent seasons (with an average of 0.7 injuries causing 8.6 missed games per year in season 2015). The reason for these change is unclear.
- Rates of concussions causing missed games continue the trend up (with 1.5 new injuries causing 4.2 missed games per team). This reflects a more conservative approach, rather than a true increase in incidence. The incidence rate from the AFL concussion audit (which includes all concussions, whether they missed games or not) was 6.0 per 1000 player hours (95% confidence interval 4.39-7.65), compared to the rate of 7.1 (95% CI 6.28-7.84) observed over the past 5 years. When expressed in similar figures to the AFL Injury Survey i.e.40 players for 22games –the incidence figure would be 5.3 new injuries per team in 2015, with the 5-year concussion rate at 6.2 new injuries per team per year.
- There is a notable increase in “other” injuries in a number of categories (e.g.“leg/foot/ankle” and “hip/groin/thigh”). The cause of this is not clear, but is likely to reflect an interpretation/classification issue rather than a significant change in specific injury types.
Every year the AFL monitors injury rates and attempts to modify the rules in the best interest of player welfare.
Common AFL Injuries in Detail
- ACL injury
- PCL Injury
- Knee Ligament Injuries
- Meniscus tears
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Patella Tendonitis (Tendinopathy)
- Chondromalacia Patella
- ITB Syndrome
- Knee Arthritis
- Plica Syndrome
- Bursitis Knee
- Sprained Ankle
- High Ankle Sprain
- Anterior Ankle Impingement
- Peroneal Tendonitis
- Retrocalcaneal Bursitis
- Hip labral tear
- Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI)
- Gluteal Tendinopathy
- Hip Arthritis (Osteoarthritis)
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Stress Fracture
- Trochanteric Bursitis
- Back Muscle Pain
- Bulging Disc
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Facet Joint Pain
- Sacroiliac Joint Pain
- Pinched Nerve
- AC Joint Injury
- Dislocated Shoulder
- Shoulder Tendonitis
- Rotator Cuff Syndrome
- Shoulder Impingement
- Bursitis Shoulder
Common Treatments for AFL Injuries
FAQs about AFL Injuries
Helpful Products for AFL Players
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Last updated 30-Aug-2018 02:31 PM
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